Columbus pitching staff key for 2019
The Columbus Cornerstone Insurance Seniors look to find a winning formula by combining pieces from last year’s squad that took second in the area tournament while adding some new talent into the mix.
Last year’s team finished the season with a 16-14 record and a state tournament appearance. As host, Columbus would have been in the tournament regardless, but the team finished in the top two of the area tournament earning the automatic bid.
Head coach Cody Schilling is optimistic more success is ahead.
“I think we have a pretty good opportunity in front of us for the year,” Schilling said. “We’ve got some good players both returning and first time up with this group and we’re hoping to build on the success we had last year and do a little more this year.”
Some of the key players Schilling highlighted for the upcoming season were Cade Fullner, Brett Beard, Eric Mustard and Tyler Palmer. Palmer and Mustard both played summer ball in Omaha in 2018.
Schilling also hopes that some of the younger players who were subs on the senior team and regulars on the junior squad a year ago can help out with more playing time.
“We had some good, young player that gave us a boost last year in a couple tournaments, but they weren’t necessarily on our roster full -time, but I think they’re really going to do some good things,” he said.
This year, Columbus will host the area tournament with a spot at state in Kearney on the line.
“We’ve got a really good opportunity in front of us,” Schilling said. “Our goal is always to play in the state tournament and have a chance to do well there. It comes down to taking care of everything that we need to do during the year.
“We always step on the filed thinking we can win the game. We’re never going to say ‘Oh, I don’t know, it’s this team.’ We step on the field thinking we can win every game.”
If there’s one area Schilling is most confident about is pitching.
Connor Dush is coming off a varsity season in which he led Columbus High in innings pitched (31), wins (4) and ERA (2.58). Tyler Palmer was also a consistent starter with a team-high 30 strikeouts and a 3.57 ERA.
Cole Wilcox was 0-2 but had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 26-7 and only allowed 15 earned runs in 21 and 2/3 innings.
“We’ve got some relatively really good starters and then we have a number of kids that can fill in and eat up innings when we need to,” Schilling said. “I think from a pitching standpoint, it might be one of the strengths of the team.”
Schilling went on to say that not only is pitching going to be an asset the team relies on, but that capitalizing on quality starts will be important.
“It’s just a matter of making sure we take care of the offensive side of the ball too so we’re not wasting that good pitching by not scoring runs,” he said. “This team is probably going to revolve around how well our pitching staff does and how well be play defense and making sure we take care of the ball.”
Offensively, Schilling said Columbus’ success will depend on knowing how to respond to certain situations and putting the ball in play.
That means having a “plan of attack” when a hitter steps up to the plate.
“Our goal is hard contact every time we step in the box. We want to minimize strikeouts, minimize easy outs. We want to make sure we make hard contact and put the ball in play as often as we can,” Schilling said.
“It’s not like we’ve got a bunch of power hitters. We’ve got a couple guys that can knock it around the yard a little bit. We’re kind of get runners on base, move them around, score when we have the opportunity and then play good defense and pitch well (kind of a team).”
Palmer smacked three home runs during the high school baseball season and CJ Fleeman, another Discoverer varsity player, put one over the fence.
Schilling said the main goal of the team is to be in position to win every game.
“Our goal is to play well every game and give ourselves an opportunity to win every game,” he said. “That’s all I can ask of the kids. If they up and put forth the effort then we’ll have a good opportunity to do that.”
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com